Critic's Choice for the week of July 28-August 3, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


The Flatlanders combine the talents of three legendary mavericks -- Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock -- for music that combines the best elements of country, singer-songwriter, West Texas blues, conjunto groove, and honky-tonk rock. They'll blow into town Saturday night at Slim's in SF. Early show (7 p.m., $20). 415-255-0333 or (j. poet)


They're loud. They're fast. They wear eyeliner and leg spikes. And they'll kick your ass, shackle you, and demand that you dress up like a nurse and inject them with absinthe. They're the distinguished gentlemen of Dimmu Borgir, and they're from Scandinavia, where it's so cold that misanthropic tales of woe, doom, and substance abuse alone can warm the hearts of the leather and chrome crowd. (Well, that and Jägermeister.) As the only "black metal" band to grace Ozzfest's main stage Thursday at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Dimmu sounds like a cross between Mercyful Fate and Venom, with some John Williams-esque symphonic flourishes tacked on for good measure. But in any event, it takes a truly twisted mind to fiendishly growl lyrics like this: Cuddled through a cold womb he was/Pitch black and without sunshine rays/Hell patiently awaiting him on blood-spilled soil/A noble grief-stirred heart, always ready to die. 9 a.m. (seriously), $49.50-$89.50. 415-371-5500 or (Eric K. Arnold)


The original lineup of Country Joe McDonald's band does reunions even less frequently than the Cheap Suit Serenaders, so its concert Thursday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage is a delightful surprise. All the players except guitarist Barry "The Fish" Melton are assembling for a tour as, appropriately enough, the Country Joe McDonald Band, with bassist Bruce Barthol, drummer Chicken Hirsh, and keyboardist-guitarist David Cohen joining singer, guitarist, and champion of nurses McDonald. They're mixing folk and rock with old and new rabble-rousing techniques, from McDonald's classic hit "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" to Barthol's timely "Cakewalk to Baghdad." They may not have captured recent newspaper headlines the way they did at Monterey Pop and Woodstock, but the musicians' commitment to justice and social causes, combined with their collective '60s' sense of humor, are channeled into an array of songs far beyond mere nostalgia. 8 p.m., $17.50-$18.50. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


"San Francisco Tiene Su Propio" is a song on the 1995 Grammy-nominated album Ritmo y Candela, brought to us by conga great Carlos "Patato" Valdes. The record features Cuban singer Fito Reinoso, who improvises verses with a hearty grit á la Beny Moré. Ritmo really put Fito, an East Bay resident, on the map: Now he's a powerhouse with his band Ritmo y Armonia, headlining Noche Latina Thursday at the Velvet Lounge in SF as part of the North Beach Jazz Festival. 9 p.m., $10. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Violinist Anthony Blea leads Charanson, a talented Bay Area string-and-flute charanga ensemble. A child prodigy from the SF Mission -- as well as a grad of the SF Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music -- he plays salsa as hard as the brass bands do, but with a lighter texture, as his debut album Virgin de la Caridad shows, boasting Afro-Cubano grooves with tinges of jazz and classical. Blea brings his dance-happy sounds to Albany's Club Montero's Saturday night. $12. 510-524-1270. (J.C.V.)


When last we checked, Seattle was best known as the home of the Space Needle and grunge, where dirty T-shirts and plaid flannel, interspersed with three-chord angst, became a lifestyle choice for a generation of bored teens. A decade after Cobain's shotgun blast heard 'round the world capped that whole era, it still comes as a surprise to hear that nongrunge bands from Seattle still exist, even if Quasi Nada isn't your typical Seattle band: These guys rock, alright, but their love of Cuban, Brazilian, and African rhythms puts 'em more in a league with Ozomatli than Stone Temple Pilots. Nada's debut album, Interrupt This Broadcast, blends worldly influences with heapfuls of thick funk, crunch hip-hop, and buttery soul. Not only that, but while Quasi Nada boasts a three-man horn section, there's no guitar player to be found -- just good vibes and grooves a-plenty. Saturday at Berkeley's Shattuck Downlow. $7. 510-548-1159. (E.K.A.)


Al Green and Isaac Hayes. That's a potent combination, wouldn't you say? Evocative of late-night git-ur-freak-on-sessions and summer barbecues, these two titans of soul are not only still alive, but still throwing down live. Hayes may be better known as a commercial pitchman (and the voice of South Park's Chef) these days than anything, but he provides a vital link between the Stax/Volt era and the hip-hop era. As a songwriter for Stax and later a solo artist, he had a hand in defining the modern soul sound, winning an Academy Award for his iconic "Theme from Shaft" and foreshadowing the rise of rap with his sotto voce soliloquies. Green, of course, is a reverend now, but he's back to performing his classics as well as his more recent gospel tunes, so there's a good chance he'll take you to the river one mo' 'gin. Sunday at the Chronicle Pavilion. $35-$55, 8 p.m. 415-421-TIXS or (E.K.A.)


George Cleve's Midsummer Mozart celebrates its scaled-back thirtieth season over the next two weeks. This Friday in Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church, the orchestra performs Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C Minor for strings, the Symphony #39 in E-flat Major, and the master's penultimate Piano Concerto #24 in C Minor with soloist Seymour Lipkin. $28-$48, 8 p.m., 415-627-9140 or (Jason Victor Serinus)


Composer, dancer, percussionist Keith Terry would like to show off his latest troupe, the Slammin' Ensemble, a six-person whirlwind of improvised a cappella vocalizing, body music, percussive dance, and rowdy humor drawing on the band's collective experience in the fields of jazz, funk, world, and R&B. Tonight at 8 p.m. at the Jazz House in Berkeley. $12 510-655-9755 (j.p.) .


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